In the United States, paying for college is no easy feat. The average graduate leaves college with around $37,000 in student loans. If you’re a female seeking a higher education, you should explore the many education grants available to help fund your tuition. You’ll offset the amount you must borrow and still get a quality education.
What is an Education Grant?
Educational grants aren’t loans – as long as you graduate from the program, there's no need to repay the funds you are awarded. Each grant details what you can use it for, but most commonly, women may use educational grants for:
- Specific equipment
- Childcare while attending school
- Travel to school
Who Qualifies for Education Grants for Women?
Each education grant program for women has specific requirements or demographics (for example, some are designed to assist minority women). Most grants, if not all, require you to complete the Free Application for Financial Student Aid. Once you complete the FAFSA, you may have other requirements you must meet such as ‘being a woman,’ proving financial need, or meeting other specific requirements as set by the sponsor providing the grant.
What’s the Difference Between a Scholarship and a Grant?
Many people use the term scholarship and grant interchangeably, but they have one large difference: grants are usually based on financial need whereas scholarships are merit-based. While it’s true that some grants have merit requirements, scholarships are solely merit-based and do not take finances into consideration at all. Grants are reserved for applicants who wouldn’t be able to attend college or university without the financial support.
Finding Education Grants for Women
Finding grant programs for women to go back to school seems overwhelming, but there are a large number of grants available.
Anyone who can demonstrate financial need may apply for the Pell Grant, not just women. This is an example of a grant that requires you to complete the FAFSA before you apply. Beyond the Federal student aid application, you must demonstrate financial need, attend college at least part-time, and be pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree.
American Association of University Women
The American Association of University Women, or AAUW, is one of the largest sponsors that helps women go back to college. They awarded 200 female students a total of $3.5 million for the upcoming 2020 – 2021 school year so far. The association supports women pursuing a career change, starting a career, or getting back into the workforce in a variety of industries including healthcare, education, and social sciences.
PEO Continuing Education Grant
The PEO grant was established in 1973 and provides need-based support as a one-time offer for women who had to stop their education and want to go back to school. The grant provides up to $3,000 which women can use for tuition, books, transportation, childcare, testing fees, and any necessary equipment.
Live your Dream Awards
The Live your Dream Awards program awards as much as $2.8 million in grant money to women each year. The grant is for women who are the primary wage earners in the home who need to go back to school. Most grant winners have overcome serious obstacles in their lives. The grant is meant to help women gain higher paying jobs, renew their confidence, and further their career.
Patsy Mink Foundation
The Patsy Mink Foundation supports low-income women, specifically mothers, who want to go back to school. They award up to five $5,000 grants each year. The foundation was started by Patsy Mink, the first ‘woman of color’ to join the House of Representatives. Eligible women are mothers over the age of 17 who have low income and are pursuing a college degree.
Jeanette Rankin Award
Women ages 35 and older who can demonstrate financial need and who are pursuing a technical or vocational education may receive financial assistance from the Jeanette Rankin Award. To qualify, you must demonstrate your goals, your plan to achieve them, and how you’ll provide for the community if you receive your grant and complete your education.
TEACH grant recipients receive $4,000 if they agree to work in a low-income area. Some women may also receive a grant to serve high-needs children, even if it’s not in a low-income area. If you receive a TEACH grant, you must work in the low-income school of choice for at least four years. You sign an agreement stating your intentions and that you’ll fulfill them within 8 years of graduating.
Other Places to Look for Education Grants for Women
There are other places women can look for an educational grant program, especially if they have a certain career or college in mind.
Attending a college specifically for women offers plenty of grant opportunities. Colleges for women offer high quality academics and competitive sports to give women every opportunity to succeed. Because colleges for women promote diversity, they often have educational grants for women in need, as well as merit-based awards.
If you have a specific field in mind, such as engineering, accounting, or technology, check out the private organizations within the field. Many offer private grants and education funding for women trying to get back into the working world.
There are plenty of opportunities for women to go back to school. Whether you couldn’t attend originally because of family needs, financial issues, or other life circumstances, there are many government and private organizations willing to help.
Exhaust all grant and scholarship options before applying for federal or private student loans as they can take a long time to pay off, making it difficult to get ahead in your financial life after graduation.
Always start with the FAFSA to make sure you get every bit of funding available to you before you take out any loans.